Acne Studios Inspired by Hilma af Klint 2014

In 2014 the creative director of Acne Studios, Jonny Johannson, created a small collection of casual pieces. They were inspired by Swedish artist Hilma af Klint and were essentially reproductions of her abstract work. So much so that before creating the line, Johannson got permission from the Hilma af Klint Foundation. Who was very pleased to have Klint’s work put on display in a unique way.

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Acne Studios’ Bird Sweatshirt (L) Group IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 1, 1915 By Hilma af Klint (R) 

The Swan No. 1 was just one painting that Acne Studios used. It is oil on canvas and the swans are undoubtedly recognizable features. Klint’s style of work encompassed both recognizable and unrecognizable forms but mostly kept true to being abstract.

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Acne Studios’ Bliss T-Shirt (L) Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 2, Childhood, 1907 By Hilma af Klint (R)

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Acne Studios’ Standard T-Shirt (L) Group IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 13, 1914-1915 By Hilma af Klint (R)

One painting that Acne Studios displayed and that shows the abstract nature of Klint’s work is Adulthood. This painting is No. 7 in a group titled The Ten Largest. These ten paintings were done with tempera on paper and, staying true to their group’s name, stand 10 feet tall. If their size alone doesn’t capture one’s attention, learning how they came about might do the trick.

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Acne Studios’ Mario Shirt (L) Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood, 1907 By Hilma af Klint (R)

Klint was commissioned to do the ten paintings but not how you might think. She was believed to have been a medium that received messages from spirits and in 1906 she said a spirit told her to create a certain artistic message. Klint followed what she was told and in doing so she produced one hundred and ninety three paintings. They were to represent the spirit of the world and ten of these paintings are The Ten Largest.

Several of Hilma af Klint’s paintings from The Ten Largest at The Guggenheim Museum in New York City, 2018

Exactly how these paintings were commissioned and what they mean was never made perfectly clear. Like a lot of art, a guessing game is included with interpreting the pieces. However, we do know a lot about the paintings from notebooks that Klint filled with information.

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Pages from two of the notebooks written by Hilma af Klint

Thanks to these notebooks we know things like why she used certain colors. Blue was used to represent female, yellow to represent male and green to represent the two together. The meaning of words and letters in her paintings were also made known. For example “guyw” represents selflessness. This was found in the 17-page glossary she wrote.

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Pages from the glossary that Hilma af Klint wrote

Along with letters, swirls were also part of the commissioned paintings. They played into Klint’s plan for the pieces of art to eventually be exhibited in a temple.

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A transcribed message from a spirit whom Klint identified as Amaliel (L) Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, 1907 By Hilma af Klint (R)

The Ten Largest were part of a larger group of paintings Klint called The Paintings For The Temple. This group, especially The Ten Largest, had messages in them about the lifespan of humans from birth until old age. She intended on having the pieces showcased in a circular structure with a spiral staircase going up to the top. The idea was that people would view her work as they went up toward heaven.

The closest this came to happening was when the Guggenheim Museum showed her work in their spiral shaped building.

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Hilma af Klint’s art on display at The Guggenheim Museum in New York City, 2018

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A view of the ceiling where Hilma af Klint’s work was on display at The Guggenheim Museum, 2018

It was great to see the artist’s vision come to life even if it was not exactly what she envisioned.

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Two pages Hilma af Klint wrote revealing how she wanted her artwork to be displayed

Klint could have showcased the paintings herself and made sure the exhibit was just as she wanted but it was on purpose that she was not alive when her paintings were first largely seen in 1986. She made the decision to not show her work while she was living. Making it clear that she did not want her art to be displayed until twenty years after she passed away. The reason for this being she thought the world would not yet understand what she created. Klint may have been right. Most of her art did not have recognizable references to the physical world and those that did were very different from the landscape and portrait paintings of the early 1900’s.

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Group VIII, No. 1, 1913 By Hilma af Klint

Klint’s work was revolutionary. She was the first notable abstract artist. Many believe Wassily Kandinsky was the one who pioneered abstract art but it was in her Stockholm studio in 1906 that Klint created her first abstract piece. This was five years before Kandinsky. In a letter to his gallerist, Jerome Neumann, Kadinsky claimed he first made abstract art in 1911.

Klint’s creations were truly groundbreaking and though she may not get the full recognition she deserves, it’s great to see a prominent brand like Acne Studios showcasing her work. Not all pieces from The Ten Largest are used in the collection but art from other groups Klint created can be seen as well. The casual clothes show a great variety of her work and her undeniable talent.

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Acne Studios’ Beta Sweatshirt (L) Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 6, Adulthood, 1907 By Hilma af Klint